French President Nicholas Sarkozy said April 3 that his country would accept one Guantánamo Bay detainee in a symbolic effort to aid the closure of the detention center. Sarkozy made the announcement ahead of this weekend’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Strasbourg, France, and Kehl, Germany. According to reports, the detainee that would be taken in by France could be of Algerian origin. Sarkozy congratulated US President Barack Obama on his January decision to order the closure of Guantánamo during the first meeting between the two heads of state this week.
Obama’s order directed that the military prison be closed “as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order,” and also instructed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates immediately to halt military commission proceedings pending a comprehensive review of all Guantanamo detentions under the supervision of the Attorney General. The order did not specify where detainees would go upon release, but did call for diplomatic efforts with foreign states in order to facilitate the closure of the facility. Last month, top officials from the Obama administration met with leaders from the European Union (EU) to discuss plans to transfer Guantánamo Bay detainees to European countries. Individual member states have also indicated their openness to accepting detainees, including Lithuania, Ireland, Germany, and Portugal. Other states have expressed reservations about accepting detainees, including Poland and Spain, while Italy and the Netherlands have said they will not accept detainees. (Jurist, April 3)